Y’all…it’s time for a

This post is brought to you by Canon Fodder: a musicology blog that takes a humorous, vernacular, and belligerently educational approach to classical music. Canon Fodder is written and produced by Molly Phelan and Lydia Zodda, former Bay Area residents and performers, and active Awesöme Orchestra admirers.

PIECE: “Danza final (Malambo)” from Danzas del Ballet Estancia op. 8

COMPOSER: Alberto Ginastera

DATE: 1941

ERA/GENRE: 20th century, Nationalist

GOOD FOR: Partying, dance-offs

Warning: I am going to use the word nationalist in this post. It is not …anything to do with our current orange menace…It’s about the movement in classical music where composers used the folk music of their own culture rather than feeling like they had to write something that sounded like the dominant trend of French/German/Italian classical music. It was very popular in the 20th century, and often associated with independence movements. Popular nationalist composers include Aaron Copland (U.S.A), Antonín Dvořák (Czech Republic), Charles Ives (U.S.A), Ralph Vaughan Williams (U.K), Edvard Grieg (Norway), Jean Sibelius (Finland), and Hector Villa-Lobos (Brazil) among others. And hey, those are all video links to their “nationalist” works if you want to go down a cool, folk-inspired, listening wormhole! Anyway, just needed to clarify that works we refer to as nationalist in classical music weren’t written point out how much other cultures suck, but rather to celebrate their own, usually under-represented, culture.

Now that that’s out of the way…

Alberto Ginastera (Hee-na-stair-a) was a 20th century Argentinian composer born in 1916. He studied music at the conservatory in Buenos Aires and quickly gained popularity as a young composer, particularly for his two early ballet suites, Panambi and Estancia. While the country loved his music, Argentina was going through some stuff in the mid 20th century, and Ginastera was forced to leave in 1945.

Ginastera came to the United States and studied with Aaron Copland, which honestly makes so much sense because these guys had a lot of the same vibe going on. They’re both in our nationalist composers category, and Copland only began incorporating folk-music of the U.S. after being inspired by Carlos Chavez’s use of Latin American folksong. They were also both dedicated to the traditional forms of classical music so it was a great teaching partnership for this phase of their lives. In fact, the movement we’re studying today reminds me SO MUCH of the “Hoe-Down” from Copland’s Rodeo in both “plot” and musical content (remember kids, it’s RODEO not ro-day-o…only you can prevent elitism in classical music!) .

But when today’s featured piece came out, Ginastera was still just a virtuosic young guy in Argentina. We’re actually lucky to even HAVE Estancia since Ginastera later destroyed or withdrew most of his earlier works, calling them “immature” examples of his art.


I hate when composers do this.

STOP DESTROYING YOUR MUSIC. ALL COMPOSERS. STOP IT. JUST PUT IT IN A NICE TEMPERATURE-CONTROLLED BOX AND DON’T THINK ABOUT IT. If it turns out your music actually sucks, I’m sure your grandchildren will kindly throw it into the garbage for you after you die.

[cough] Sidebar over!

ANYWAY! Luckily, Estancia and some other works were already so firmly beloved and already essentially locked into the Argentinian musical canon, they survived the purge. Ginastera called the music from this period of his life “Objective Nationalism”, meaning that he often integrated Argentinian folk themes into western classical styles in a very literal translation, whereas later he got a lot more abstract with his folk references (Later Ginastera is weird and great).

In 1941 American Ballet Caravan toured South America, where their impresario Lincoln Kirstein heard Ginastera’s music for the first time. The company had just produced Aaron Copland’s Billy the Kid, a “cowboy ballet” (see I told you they were on the same vibe-length) and were excited to continue down that path. They asked Ginastera to compose on a scenario on “Argentine country life” and Ginastera naturally turned to gauchos because obviously horse-dudes are awesome/attractive no matter what country you’re in.

See, every culture loves horse dudes

Lincoln Kirstein had a very cool idea for an evening of three one-act ballets composed by three South American composers (Francisco Mignone, Brazil and Domingo Santa Cruz of Chile being the other two composers) and was going to to have George FRICKIN Balanchine choreograph the ballet…But then the group disbanded later that year and the project fell apart (Don’t feel too sad all the ballet people were fine, and in 1953 Estancia did eventually premiere in its ballet form, although with another choreographer).

Ginastera didn’t let the loss keep him down though (and I deeply hope his contract made sure he still got paid…)! He whittled the ballet down to a suite (Danzas del Ballet Estancia, op.8) and premiered it at the Teaotro Coloacuten in Buenos Aires in 1943. People lost their minds because this piece is awesome, and it was an instant success. It incorporates a LOT of Argentinian folk music, melodies, rhythms and dance forms, but it’s translated directly into western classical form. Danzas del Ballet Estancia fit in well with the current trend toward Nationalism in music, so this piece gained international popularity quickly. The entire ballet score is rarely heard in it’s complete form (which is a bummer because apparently it’s all great?!) but this suite has become an absolute standard in the canon. I mean the canon is ridiculous,* but it’s important to know that this is in it.

Today is all about the last movement of the suite, the Danza final, today but let’s quickly run down the “plot” of what comes before it, and oh what the heck, I’ll link you to youtube vidz of the movements if you care to go on a listening adventure! The complete ballet-version of the story is simple: Nice gaucho boy falls in love with cattle ranch owner’s daughter. She’s not into it, but then she sees how awesome he is at horse-games and dancing and she is like “dayuuuum” and then they’re in love! Standard horse-boy meets farm-girl love stuff. These four danzas are excerpted from that larger story.

I. Los trabajadores agricolas (Agricultural workers)

The sun rises as we begin our journey through a regular day in the life of a gaucho. Like the danza final, it also features a malambo, which is an Argentinian dance for men (originated in gaucho culture) to show off some really hardcore percussive footwork, sick boots and stern faces. This malambo is just a minor dance scuffle though, nothing compared to what awaits us later.

II. Danza del trigo (Wheat dance)

Honestly all I can find in my sources about what’s happening plot-wise is “a gentle interlude” so, I’m assuming is probably one of those beautiful ballet moments where the plot is not really going anywhere and we can just watch some lovely dancing. But it’s a lovely musical depiction of beautiful fields of shimmering wheat.

III. Los Peones de hacienda (The Cattlemen)

The Cattlemen are, at least according to this music, really aggressive. I feel like the syncopated bass line of this is basically a big dude in gaucho pants swaggering his hips around in musical form. Also some hardcore timpani happening in this movement.

Which of course leads us to our….


IV. Danza final (Malambo) (Final Dance….Malambo)

This movement depicts the Malambo/justa which is the “jousting dance” of gauchos. Now c'mon you know what that means…

Yup! A dudely dance-off. The way these jousting dance contests work is a last-man-standing-wins kind of deal, so the music is repetitive but increasingly rhythmically complex and FAST to try and knock out competitors. These contests typically went well into the night and even into the next morning, so the idea here is that this contest closes at dawn, giving us a complete day in the life of a gaucho, dawn to dawn.

The whole piece has a forward driven motion, emphasized by the 2 against 3 polyrhythm Ginastera plays with throughout the piece.

What does that mean…

Well basically the piece is in 6/8 time, so there are six beats per measure (don’t worry about the 8 for now).

So some parts of the orchestra are dividing up those 6 beats into 2 big divisions of 3 little beats, and others are dividing it up into 3 big divisions of 2 smaller beats. SEE, MUSIC IS HARD GUYS! WE HAVE TO DO WEIRD EAR MATH! IT’S NOT JUST SONGS AND GAMES**. This creates an off-centered feeling groove that is crazy satisfying once you settle into it. Link here to a video of a robotic computer graphic showing how the beats line up to create that effect.

Alberto Ginastera: Estancia - Malambo Simon Bolivar Youth Orcestra play at Lucerne Festival 2007 Conducted by Gustavo Dudamel

(WHEN IN DOUBT…I always choose Dudamel. He has so much fun on the podium)

You can hear that polyrhythm RIGHT at the beginning of this piece when the flute/piccolo loudly have a division of 2 big beats, the piano/oboe/strings are working with a strong division of 3 big beats. As an audience member this can make it a little hard to get into the groove, so I would encourage you to watch the conductor to help pick up the big beats, because this music is so fun if you can groove along and feel centered in the off-centeredness. If the musicians are all bobbing their heads, or doing AMAZING RHYTHMIC GROOVING like they do in that video, tap your foot in time for another lifehack to get into the groove of polyrhythmic music. Enjoy the ride, remember if you get off-beat that this music is supposed to be tricking dancers into messing up.

The melody is passed around to different parts of the orchestra and once you get to 2:24 in the above video you start hearing these dissonant rips in the horns, and those start to get passed around the orchestra as well. I can’t decide if those dissonances are gauchos wiping out or whoops from the crowd so listen for yourself and choose your own adventure/interpretation.

This one goes out to my music nerds out there: This piece features a blaring, dissonant, flat 2 that always makes me think of Respighi’s Pines of Rome and I wouldn’t even mention it except that it happens AT THE SAME TIMESTAMP in these videos which is just a strange enough coincidence for me to point out these awesome dissonant coincidences. Here’s the Respighi, and here’s that moment in the Ginastera. Probably means nothing, probably no connection at all except that flat-twos are generally ALARMING!

All that technical blather aside, this is a dance contest. I challenge you to groove the heck out during this piece, put on those gaucho pants, and stay up till dawn dancing with your friends.


**A lot of it is though…that’s why it’s the best!


Lohengrin: Prelude to Act III


Lohengrin: Prelude to Act III

Richard Wagner's opera Lohengrin features unquestionably his most famous music, the wedding march from Act III (aka THE wedding march from every standard wedding music playlist). Today we're focusing on the little gem right before that wedding march, where Wagner condenses a whole wedding party into a less-than-five-minute prelude. So yeah, we're gonna focus on the party today.


Porgy and Bess: Selection for orchestra


Porgy and Bess: Selection for orchestra

This post is brought to you by Canon Fodder: a musicology blog that takes a humorous, vernacular and belligerently educational approach to classical music. Canon Fodder is written and produced by Molly Phelan and Lydia Zodda, former Bay Area residents and performers, and active Awesöme Orchestra admirers.

PIECE: Porgy and Bess: Selection for Orchestra

COMPOSER: George Gershwin, arranged by Robert Russell Bennett

DATE: 1935 (Gershwin), 1961 (Bennett arrangement)

ERA: 20th century, opera

GOOD FOR: Really feeling like it's the 1930's again but not always in the fun parts of the 1930's? Wait, were there any fun parts of the 1930's? Well, it's a complicated work...

Let's start with a little background on George Gershwin. He was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1898. His family members were Russian Jewish immigrants and he grew up near the Yiddish Theater District, where he and his brother attended shows and even appeared as an extra occasionally. provides this nice back-handed compliment: "As a boy, George was anything but studious, and it came as a wonderful surprise to his family that he had secretly been learning to play the piano." 

So, I guess it wasn't particularly surprising when he dropped out of school at age 15 to work in Tin Pan Alley, and by 17 he had his first song published and from there his songs quickly gained popularity.

As his fame grew, he began collaborating on Broadway shows including Funny Face (which became a great film) and Oh Kay! (which produced "Someone to Watch Over Me" ). Eventually, he would be credited on over fifty stage musicals, not counting his film musicals and also a fat catalog of piano and orchestral works. The man has tunes on tunes on tunes y'all.


In “Funny Face” we get a rare cameo of Gershwin himself, seen here composing even more musicals

So, by 1930 George Gershwin was pretty hot stuff. The Metropolitan Opera commissioned him to write a thoroughly American opera. Gershwin first sought the rights to The Dybbuk, a play based on a spooky bit of Jewish mythology by Russian playwright S. Ansky, but was denied (although later Bernstein wrote a cool ballet based on it). That is unfortunate because had Gershwin been granted those rights, his only contribution to opera probably wouldn't be a hotbed of controversy. 

Gershwin next sought and was granted rights to Porgy, a play by Dubose and Dorothy Heyward. Dubose Heyward and George's brother, Ira worked together to write the libretto and so, in the words of Gershwin scholar James Standifer, Porgy and Bess was "created by two northern Jews and a white Southerner who, despite his admiration for black people, was a product of his time." 

You guys, this music is heavily loaded. That Gershwin scholar I just mentioned, James Standifer, wrote an amazing article for the National Endowment for the Humanities, about the very tumultuous life of Porgy and Bess, that really deserves to be read in its entirety. Really. You should read it. I would summarize it here but I couldn't find any parts worth leaving out.

Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Elaine Dutka called Porgy and Bess "an odyssey of American race relations" and you can certainly see waves of outcry that mirror surges in the civil rights movement. Even in the original cast, some of the singers were uncomfortable with the content. Later, American soprano, Grace Bumbry said, in regards to playing Bess, "I thought it beneath me, I felt I had worked far too hard, that we had come far too far to have to retrogress to 1935. My way of dealing with it was to see that it was really a piece of Americana, of American history, whether we liked it or not. Whether I sing it or not, it was still going to be there."

Porgy and Bess has been through revisions that attempt to make it less of a caricature, and while I'm grateful that racial slurs have been removed, I don't think the Porgy we have now is perfect. The world of classical music players and listeners alike deserve to give "period pieces" such as this one a long and hard look to decide how we want to present them.

These parts of the work's history are too frequently shoved under the rug and ignored and that Standifer article is really fascinating it and spread the word.


Maya Angelou, yes THAT Maya Angelou, was in a touring production of Porgy and Bess in the 1950's.

Ok now let's talk about the music itself. 

Porgy and Bess: Selection for orchestra is an arrangement compiled by Robert Russell Bennett, a successful Broadway arranger. Bennett stayed largely true to Gershwin's original orchestration and style, so we are not going to spend a lengthy amount of time talking about him or his composing style, sorry Bennett! But thanks for compiling these movements into Selection

Gershwin frequented jazz clubs in Harlem and that jazz influence comes through in all of his compositions, including Porgy and Bess. Gershwin called this a "folk opera" which basically meant that he wanted to use authentic folk music from the African-American community. 

He visited the Gullah community on James Island in South Carolina for inspiration and research because he believed they had preserved their African musical traditions. However, Gershwin felt that verbatim use of the folk-tunes wouldn't match up with his original music or general opera stylistic norms. So instead, Gershwin wrote his own versions of spirituals and African-American folk music based off of the original melodies, for example, something like taking the tune of "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child" and transforming it into the melody for "Summertime". "On the one hand, the opera is a celebration of African American culture. On the other hand, the primary agents who created it were white, and the Gershwin estate is what profits from 'Summertime,' not the community that created 'Motherless Child.'" 



Full plot summary here, totally out-of-story-order explanation of emotional context of songs below!

Bennett opens his Selection with the four chords that open Act II, scene three ("Honey dat's all de breakfast"). According to the libretto, these chords are the bells that "herald the day", so a perfect way to transport you into the world of Porgy and Bess. After that, the cellos come in with one deep, low iteration of the melody from "Bess you is my woman nowwhich serves as a bookend in this work. So remember this theme! It's coming back!

 "Clara, Clara, Don't You Be Downhearted" is our first full selection in this arrangement, which is a dark way to jump in but it sure does have a gorgeous melody. A group of women are mourning those who died in the storm the night before, and singing their souls to heaven. They repeat this chorus three times, changing the name to another of the victims on each repeat. 

Clara, Clara, don't you be downhearted, Clara, Clara, don't you be sad an' lonesome.

Jesus is walkin' on de water, rise up an' follow Him home. Oh, Lawd, oh my Jesus, rise up an' follow Him home.

This flows right into "A Woman Is a Sometimes Thingwhich is a father's very poor attempt at a lullaby for his child after his wife's attempts (spoiler alert: her lullaby is "Summertime" and it's better). 

Lissen to yo' daddy warn you, 'fore you start a-travelling, Woman may born you, love you, an' mourn you, But a woman is a sometime thing, Yes, a woman is a sometime thing.

Yo’ mammy is the first to name you, an` she’ll tie you to her apron string, Then she’ll shame you and she'll blame you till yo’ woman comes to claim you, ‘Cause a woman is a sometime thing, Yes, a woman is a sometime thing.

Don't you never let a woman grieve you Jus' cause she got yo' weddin' ring. She’ll love you and deceive you, then she'll take yo' clo’es and leave you, ‘Cause a woman is a sometime thing. Yes, a woman is a sometime thing.

The melody starts in the clarinet, slowly adding the rest of the woodwinds. As the music gets more worked up, the trumpets join and eventually the rest of the brass as well. The clarinet leads us out of "A Woman Is a Sometimes Thing", through a brief hint of the melody from this unpleasant foreshadowing motif of the stormy seas from Act II, and into "Summertime" (Bonus Audra McDonald version here in a different key). Summertime is Clara's lullaby to her baby in Act I, and she reprises it in Act II, as the town huddles in shelter during the hurricane, and the song appears again after Clara's death, when Bess sings it to Clara's baby. As I mentioned earlier, "Summertime" is possibly an adaptation of "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" and if you are like me, you can definitely sing one tune along with a recording of the other, especially after a cocktail or two. The melody here belongs to the high strings, flutes and oboes a.k.a. the generally "feminine" instruments of the orchestra*.

Summertime and the livin' is easy, Fish are jumpin', and the cotton is high. Oh, yo' daddy's rich, and yo' ma is good lookin', So hush, little baby, don' yo' cry.

One of these mornin's you goin' to rise up singin', Then you'll spread yo' wings an' you'll take the sky.But till that mornin', there's a-nothin' can harm you With Daddy an' Mammy standin' by.

To move us into our next tune, Bennett uses the same foreboding chords that open Act II, as Jake declares he'll be going out to fish, no matter what the weather threatens. These chords lead us into "I got plenty of nothin'". Porgy sings this aria early in Act II, about his new carefree outlook on life since Bess came to live with him.

Oh, I got plenty o' nuttin', An' nuttin's plenty fo' me.I got no car, got no mule, I got no misery. De folks wid plenty o' plenty got a lock an dey door, 'Fraid somebody's a-goin' to rob 'em while dey's out a-makin' more. What for? I got no lock an de door, (dat's no way to be) Dey kin steal de rug from de floor, Dat's okeh wid me, 'Cause de things dat I prize, Like de stars in de skies all are free.

Oh, I got plenty o' nuttin', An' nuttin's plenty fo' me. I got my gal, got my song, got Hebben de whole day long! No use complainin'! Got my gal, got my Lawd, got my song.

I got plenty o' nuttin', An' nuttin's plenty fo' me. I got de sun, got de moon, got de deep blue sea. De folks wid plenty o' plenty, Got to pray all de day. Seems wid plenty you sure got to worry How to keep de debble away. I ain't afrettin' 'bout hell Till de time arrive. Never worry long as I'm well, Never one to strive to be good, to be bad, what de hell, I is glad l's alive.



Now we get to what Bennet clearly views as the crown jewel in Porgy and Bess, "Bess, you is my woman now", Porgy and Bess' love duet from Act II. Bennett already quoted it at the beginning and now it gets an expansive section of time right in the middle of this arrangement.The melody stays mostly in the very romantic string section, occasionally passing off some of the tune to the flutes, the next most romantic instrument in the orchestra. The rest of the orchestra swells up gorgeously around this melody to lend support. This lets the dramatic interval jumps (large distances between notes) in the melody be the star of this movement and make you feel all the feelings.

Porgy: Bess, you is my woman now, you is, you is! An' you mus' laugh an' sing an' dance for two instead of one. Want no wrinkle on yo' brow, nohow, because de sorrow of de past is all done done. Oh, Bess, my Bess! De real happiness is jes' begun.

Bess: Porgy, l's yo' woman now, I is, I is! An' I ain' never goin' nowhere 'less you shares de fun. Dere's no wrinkle on my brow, nohow, but I ain' goin'! You hear me sayin', if you ain' goin', wid you I'm stayin'. Porgy, l's yo' woman now! I's yours forever, Mornin' time an' evenin' time an' summer time an’ winter time.

Porgy: Bess, you is my woman now an' forever. Dis life is jes' begun, Bess, we two is one now an' forever. Oh, Bess, don' min' dose women. You got yo' Porgy, you loves yo' Porgy, I knows you means it, I seen it in yo' eyes, Bess. We'll go swingin' through de years a-singin'.

From there we plunge head-on into the picnic scene "Oh, I Can't Sit Down". This is a chorus song and the whole orchestra joins in for a raucous party

Oh, I can't sit down! Got to keep agoin' like de flowin' of a song. Oh, I can't sit down! Guess I’ll take my honey an' her sunny smile along!

Today I is gay an' I's free, Jes' a-bubblin', nothin' troublin' me. Oh, I's gwine to town. I can't sit down.

Happy feelin' in my bones a-stealin', no concealin' Dat it's picnic day. Sho' is dandy, got de licker handy. Me an' Mandy, we is on de way 'cause dis is picnic day.

Oh, I can't sit down! Got to keep a-jumpin' to de thumpin' of de drum! Oh, I can't sit down! Full of locomotion like an ocean full of rum! Today I is gay an' l's free, Jes' a-bubblin', nothin' troublin' me! Oh, l's gwine to town. I can't, jes' can't sit down!

Then the bass gets real squirrely and sneaky all of a sudden, which lets you know it's time for "There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon for New York." This is slimy, drug dealer, Sportin' Life's creepy attempt to lure Bess away with him. But we only linger on that tune for a second before jumping into Sportin' Life's big number, "It Ain't Necessarily So", where he shows off his cool bad-boy beliefs about the bible. This slouchy bass line and syncopation in the melody which can throw the listeners ear off are like a musical portrayal of trolling, which is more or less what Sportin' Life is doing here.

lt ain't necessarily so, De t'ings dat yo' li'ble To read in de Bible, it ain't necessarily so.

Li'l David was small, but oh my! He fought big Goliath who lay down an' dieth, Li'l David was small, but oh my!

Wadoo – Zim bam boodle-oo, Hoodle ah da wa da – scatty wah.

Yeah! Oh, Jonah, he lived in de whale, he made his home in Dat fish's abdomen. Oh, Jonah, he lived in a whale.

And Moses was found in a stream, He floated on water Till Ole Pharaoh's daughter She fished him, she says, from dat stream.

Yeah! It ain't necessarily so, Dey tell all you chillun De debble's a villun But it ain't necessarily so.

To get into Hebben, don' snap for a sebben! Live clean. Don' have no fault. Oh, I takes dat gospel Whenever it's pos'ble, But wid a grain of salt.

Methus'lah lived nine hundred years, But who calls dat livin' When no gal'll give in, To no man what's nine hundred years? I'm preachin' dis sermon to show lt ain't nessa, ain't nessa, ain't nessa, ain't nessa ... Ain't necessarily so.

Then, we get a quick snippet of the overture with awesome xylophone antics, before our last official number, "Oh Lawd, I'm On My Way", the final number of the opera, where Porgy decides to chase after Bess, who has gone to New York with Sportin' Life and his delicious/very bad drugs, and prays for guidance.

Oh Lawd, I'm on my way.I’m on my way to a Heav'nly Lan', I’ll ride dat long, long road, If You are there to guide my han'.

Oh Lawd, I'm on my way. I'm on my way to a Heav'nly Lan' oh Lawd. It’s a long, long way, but You'll be there to take my han'.

But Bennett doesn't leave us there! He finishes up his bookends, giving one last grand iteration of "Bess, you is my woman now". 

Whew, that is a crazy amount of opera to fit into about fifteen minutes of concert music! Video below of some very talented young musicians playing the work, as well as a table of times and musical references if you want to really hear each one separated out. 

MUSICAL REFERENCES Timings based on youtube video above

00.00: Act 2, scene 3 opening

00.18: "Bess, You is My Woman Now" theme

00.29: "Clara, Clara, Don't You Be Downhearted"

01.27: "A Woman Is a Sometimes Thing"

02.30: Act 2, scene 1 opening "bad weather" music

02:38: "Summertime"

04:37: Act 2, scene 1 "bad weather" music returns

04:40: "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin'"


06:09: "Bess, You Is My Woman Now"

08:36: "Oh, I Can't Sit Down"

09:27: "There's a Boat Dat's Leavin' New York"

10:15: "It Ain't Necessarily So"

11:43: Overture material

11:54: "Oh Lawd, I'm On My Way"

12:43: "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" theme


*I am sorry instruments! I don't want to impose gender roles on you! Let's write some more new music that mixes all that up! 




Vertigo Suite


Vertigo Suite

Well, it's September. A chill is in the air, kids are going back to school, and spooky stories are starting to come up in conversation. In that spirit, we're jumping into one of my all-time favorite film scores because nothing says "fall" quite like Vertigo…


Godfather Suite


Godfather Suite

The Godfather and The Godfather Part II are two of the greatest movies ever made. The films have won Oscars, Golden Globes, Grammys, and BAFTAs, and are featured on pretty much every  one of AFI’s countless lists of the best films ever made. And while the films feature incredible performances by stars like Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, Francis Ford Coppola’s extraordinary direction, and some of the best, most quotable lines in film history (“Leave the gun, take the cannoli,” “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”), the incredible score by Nino Rota elevates the pair of films to modern-day opera. As Awesӧme Orchestra prepares to perform The Godfather Suite on Sunday, October 8, allow Canon Fodder to be your guide through this epic story about family, power, vengeance, loyalty, and a whole lot of food. (For the purposes of this post, we’re just going to go ahead and skip Godfather Part III, which we wish Coppola had done, too.) In case it’s not already clear, I love these movies like I love a good Bolognese, so let’s dig in!


Copland: Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo


Copland: Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo

What does Awesöme Orchestra have in common with beef commercials, Vegas fountain shows, and An American Tail: Fievel Goes West? Copland’s “Hoe-down” from Rodeo!

This post is brought to you by Canon Fodder: a musicology blog that takes a humorous, vernacular and belligerently educational approach to classical music. Canon Fodder is written and produced by Molly Phelan and Lydia Zodda, former Bay Area residents and performers, and active Awesome Orchestra admirers.